I used to work at a full service steak and seafood restaurant right on the water in a Marina in LA County. I was hired to be a server. I was 32. My kids were teenagers, so they could stay home alone while I worked. Everyone I worked with were all college students who came from different parts of the state/s and were paying their way through college waiting tables. It was a fun and welcoming bunch of kids.
The ring leader of the bunch turned out to be the Manager who hired me, and would later become one of my closest friends.
There was an Irish bar right across the street that we would all go to after work to drink and decompress from our shifts. We even had our own corner which we named the G-Stoners corner. (Stones was part of the name of our restaurant) So it was a nightly thing to go there after work, get hammered drunk then hopefully make it home, otherwise wake up on a friends couch the next morning.
I had just gotten out of a 6 year relationship which came on the tail end of a 9+ year relationship with my kids father, so I was pretty ignorant and naive about the ways of the world. I had known nothing but relationships and motherhood, though I did work in restaurants off and on before, so the industry wasn’t a complete surprise to me.
Our restaurant was casual in that we wore khaki shorts and logo t-shirts which came in a variety of colors from navy blue to bright pink. We could even wear sunglasses during the day if we were serving on the patio.
We were right next to a convention center so it wasn’t uncommon to go from 0-60 in a matter of minutes if a convention unknowingly let out around dinner time. But at the end of the day, we would trickle in, one by one, to our corner of the Irish bar where there were always smiling faces, beers, shots and all of our friends.
I feel like I found an identity in this group of young people. I was accepted. I had friends. People spent time with me because they WANTED to. It was the first time I had ever had a “social circle” and I was pretty happy about it.
It was also my first experience with men I wasn’t in a relationship with. I worked along side the most beautiful guy with dark hair, tall and perfect features. He was charming combined with just the right amount of bad boy. He was younger than me as well. 24 maybe? He was fun and flirty and I reciprocated. But my co-workers did warn me about him. “Stay away from him. He’s been with everyone who works here”.
One night when a bunch of us went out to a club in Orange County, he was there. We ended up hooking up that night and I was beyond giddy. In my naive mind, this guy really liked me. I remember him dropping me off at home at like 4am and kissing me in the car and going on about how he could spend forever kissing me. He was so sweet.
The next morning a bunch of us girls went to a local hot springs and drank beer and played in mud baths and talked about the night before. I told them about Mark and what had happened. They didn’t seem surprised, except for when I went on about how I thought he really liked me. I texted him later that day just to say hi. He was short. Said he was doing good. That’s it. Mark was my first experience of the “2am booty call”. I was like a lost puppy dog with this guy and couldn’t understand why he only called me and wanted to see me at 2am, but I obliged him and always went over to his house.
I finally understood what was going on between us and no longer took him seriously, though my heart still beat like a tribe of Indian drums during a celebration whenever I would see him. Once I became a Manager st the restaurant I always babied him and gave him the best sections.
But meanwhile my drunken nights continued. We would bar hop on 2nd street which had bar after bar after bar. And I would wake up in the strangest places. But I always had fun, though I must admit, I put myself in compromising and unsafe situations.
It was all a blur of booze and sex and even cocaine every now and then, but it was all fun. I never got a chance to have this life because I was a mother at such a young age. The kids spent most of these years with their dad.
I don’t remember exactly how or why or when it happened, but everyone moved on; went away to other colleges, got real jobs, settled down, or whatever else… but we all went our separate ways.
One of my old friends was a writer and she now has a phD in English and teaches creative writing classes back in the city we all started out in. Another one moved to MN and is married with 2 beautiful baby boys and has a sort of interior design/home construction business with her husband where they make TV appearances and talk about how to spice up different rooms in your home for different seasons, etc. She also has a popular Mommy Blog. Another friend got married to a guy that we worked with and she owns her own business; a troop of actors who travel around the world and act out real life situations to teach military personnel about harassment and abuse in the workplace. Another friend is married to a guy we worked with also and they own their own restaurant that her family handed down to them.
Everyone has gone on to make something of their lives. But I feel like I’m still standing in the same place, only my struggles have gotten tougher. We are all still friends on Facebook and Instagram and we always give the obligatory “likes” on each other’s posts, but it’s very different.
I am now invisible. My reality is very different from theirs. Starting out their lives and careers with young babies, while I struggle with a heroin addicted adult son. I am that person that no one quite knows how to communicate with, so it’s easier to just ignore me. Their Social Media posts are them holding up their Phd degree and mine are about how proud I am that my son has 30 days clean.
I try to reach out sometimes. Sometimes I get no response back. My friend who was the writer always used to tell me that my life had been so crazy and that someone should write about it. She always encouraged me to write and even got me a journal for one of my birthdays and wrote inside what an inspiration I was to her.
I contacted her when I started this blog to tell her I took her advice and finally just started writing it all down. That’s what she used to always tell me “just start writing it all down”. She never responded to me, despite seeing my message.
This was a phase in my life. A time that was and is no longer. But I don’t know how to deal with changes like that. When I make friends, I don’t intend to just keep them around for awhile. I’m always hoping they will be life long friendships. It hurts to now feel like they’re all afraid of me. Or they just think I’m a bad person because I suffer so much from depression and anxiety and have a drug addicted kid.
I was popular and people liked me. Now they don’t even know I exist anymore. They have moved on and I haven’t. I wonder what they tell people who ask about me? “Oh she’s still working in restaurants and is crazy and her kids are all on drugs”. That’s what I imagine.
I just read the first part of a novel that the writer posted about server life. It’s all set in the same place we used to work, from the way she writes. The main character is a crazy drunk girl who shows her boobs to old men for money on their boats and then there’s (in her exact words) “the writer, the actress, the mother and the drunk”. The writer would be her. The actress would be our other friend who has the acting troop business, and then I’m not sure if I’m the mother or the drunk. I don’t drink anymore and pretty much never did again after that particular time in my life, so maybe I’m the mother?
Either way, it breaks my heart to see how things change. Change is constant. Always happening. Is there a “right way” to deal with change? Does change always mean that you make friends and tell them all of your deepest darkest secrets and then they go away and shun you from then on?
I just feel like I’m invisible.